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What do Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and Fred Flintstone all have in common? Sure, they’re all cartoons. But the more pressing matter is that they’re all men. And while women are slowly overcoming issues around equality and representation, progress in the animation industry remains slow. In light of this, MullenLowe London teamed up with charity Inspiring Girls International to shine a light on the lack of diversity in children’s cartoons. We explore the insights behind the latest installment in the ongoing #RedrawTheBalance campaign.

To celebrate 2017’s International Women’s Day, the video spot begins by introducing Cathy the Carpenter, Angela the Astronaut and Carla the Coder – before highlighting that unfortunately, these characters don’t exist on kids’ TV. It then goes on to explain that in animated film, only 29% of characters are women and more often than not they’re portrayed as damsels in distress. And this isn’t just the case on-screen – behind the scenes, just 20% of animators are female. In order to practice what they preach, MullenLowe ensures that the ad was created by an almost all-female team.

Inspiring Girls International wants to redraw the balance
Inspiring Girls 2017 ©

“The lack of female leading characters in animation is just a reflection of an unbalanced society and affects the self-confidence of girls that continues later on in their lives,” says the charity’s co-founder Miriam Gonzalez. And it’s something that parents and young girls alike are paying attention to – in the shows they watch and the toys they buy. Between 2009 and 2013 Barbie’s sales fell, while sales of realistic girl dolls and Frozen’s Elsa stormed ahead for offering alternative viewpoints on femininity. 

This shift in how young women (and their parents) perceive their gender has been acknowledged by countless brands – both Barbie and Goldieblox have launched adverts in recent years that portray a diverse range of women in professions from soccer coach to stem cell researchers. And little girls are following suit – 21% of 8- to 10-year-olds seek out brands that inspire them to think differently, while 27% dislike girly stereotypes like princesses or the colour pink. In short, the next generation of women are more empowered and aware than ever. And whether they’re social activists, enthusiastic entrepreneurs or simply sitting down to watch Dora the Explorer, they’re set to grow up in a world where they’re educated on what it means to be a woman.

Hannah Callaghan is an account executive at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. When she’s not helping clients navigate the deepest layers of the Canvas8 Library, she’s probably binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race or befriending other people’s dogs.


13 Mar 17
2 min read

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